Pink salt vs regular salt
What is the difference between pink salt and more typical coarse salt (e.g. sea salt)?
I know it is pink due to mineral deposits, but culinarily is it any different? e.g. does it taste different, is it used differently, etc.
Since there may be more than one kind of pink salt, I'm talking specifically about "Himalayan Pink Salt".
Definitely more than one kind of pink salt—the type I've heard of before contains sodium nitrate, and is used for curing meats. But that's not this type.
@FuzzyChef Really? Answer me this. Just how would a lowly pink bacterium hook up with a salt crystal?
The bacteria thrive in the salt brine which is a drying-up sea. When the sea dries up completely (and becomes salt rock), the bacteria die ... but their pink color is left behind.
In my experience, the difference between various salts has little to do with flavor, once you've moved beyond iodized table salt and bulk kosher salt, and assuming we aren't talking about salts that are flavored by additions like herbs or smoke during processing.
So limiting the discussion to natural, high quality finishing salts, the differences are mainly texture and color. Some salts, like Maldon, are flaky, while others are large pyramids or cubes, and others tend to a small grain size and hold on to a bit of moisture. Each of these textures can bring something special to a finished dish. For example, flaky Maldon adds a delightful crunch, while another salt might adhere better to a French fry.
Color, like the pink salt you mention, is used pretty much for the visual interest. And there is nothing wrong with that. Simply save it for a dish where it will be noticeable. For example, those pink grains would look amazing on a chocolate truffle, or a savory meringue.
If anyone thinks they can actually taste the difference among unflavored finishing salts, I'd challenge them to do a triangle test with those salts dissolved in water (in equal amounts by weight) so that texture and color isn't confusing the issue.
I actually have to slightly disagree with you (though for the most part you are right). Most sea salts taste similar, but there are very slight differences. For instance, Himalayan pink salt tends to have an ever-so-slightly floral (similar to lavender) taste if you stick a small piece in your mouth. Hawaiian black sea salt has an earthier taste (probably due to the charcoal content). The differences are subtle at best, but definitely there if you do a horizontal tasting across several of them.
At 18g/kg, you might notice the magnesium in Himalayan salt. There's 15+grams of bicarbonate as well, which might also be tasteable: http://www.davidicke.com/forum/showthread.php?t=115738 Naturally, analytic results differ: http://www.saltnews.com/chemical-analysis-natural-himalayan-pink-salt/